Leslie and the boys took the train down from the perch. A much faster way to travel than by wagon though it'd been crowded with deputies, aristocrats, and those with pockets weighed down by buckbacks.
It only took thirty minutes and they were in the heart of Lone Creek where the inns were quiet and the bars were loud with ruckus, keeping the cities Sheriff on alert.
"Is this where we're staying?" Boone asked, his eyes dazzling on her. Leslie nodded and he about jumped from his breeches.
The inn sat on a corner of the street, looming over the other log buildings inside town like one of Texinya's great forts: it stretched a block down eastward main street and northward up woods road. Two stories tall. Made of fine timber, four-pane sash windows, and a fancy entry doors large enough to fit Rynan. The facade rose high with a porch and balcony that stretched from one end of the building to the other.
"A home for the president," Boone said, reading the name Prime Palace on the sign above.
"President? That's a castle for a King," Rynan chuckled.
Leslie smiled at their innocence. It wasn't long ago that she'd been their age. Curious as they were though she'd found adulthood much too soon. Women grew up faster, she was told, but by who she couldn't quite remember. Nonetheless, she envied their ignorance to the harsh world around them. If only I could be that care free, she thought.
They wandered through chandler halls that smelled of dried apples, dried oranges, and pine. Walking past walls covered in golden paper with gilded framed painted pictures of great battles at Crokernard; the structures of the wall and city; and of the perch that hung in the north.
There were lounges with stoned fireplaces to relax and read and lounges where gentlemen took to the pipe. Great dining halls where butlers served trays of food that steamed and sizzled. And game rooms to gamble away coin on card games or shooting contests.
In the center of the inn sat a great circuit for horse racing while in the basement was The Gentlemen's Study: a room made for the study of one's flesh, she knew. Where the whores stayed and the men played. Groaning and moaning from dawn until dusk.
"Keep away from here," Leslie told the boys twice. "You need to have a fine suit to enter...And, without one, will be stripped of all your belongings."
Rynan looked cautiously while Boone's eyebrows raised with curiosity.
"How do I get a suit?" he asked looking down at his breeches.
Leslie rubbed her chin. She knew he'd be as hard a sell as his Grandpappy. That's how the Riggers were, tough as bricks, they'd always say though the Turnbuckles had their own saying for the clan...Thick as bricks.
She smiled and hunched to his level. "I can get you a suit," she grabbed the bill of his hat and gave it a tug, "but you won't be able to bring your Pappy's crown."
Boone thought hard for a moment, so hard in fact, she thought he might think himself to sleep.
He removed the hat, "I'd like to be a gentlemen."
Rynan's large ears wiggled, "me too," he took off his hat but hadn't a lick of sense as to why he'd done it.
Leslie sighed, "alright," she said to Boone. "But I guess I'll by all my lonesome..."
"By your lonesome?" Boone eyes lifted, worried.
Rynan waved an enormous hand, you'll be fine," he chuckled. "Wildgun and Mammoth the kid need to learn to be gentlemen."
Boone's cheeks colored the orangish-pinks of the sunset. He smiled at Leslie, "I'd rather stay with you."
Rynan's face twisted ugly. "Over the Gentlemen's Study?" The poor boy didn't have a clue that he'd never learn to be a gentlemen down there—quite the opposite in fact. Boone kept his gaze on the Sheriff. Rynan pouted, "I'll go by myself then."
"See you later," Boone said, grabbing Leslie's hand.
"Should I pick you up later or will you find your own way to the room?" Leslie asked.
Rynan shuttered and stuttered, "I'll—I'll," he kicked at the red rug beneath his boot. "I don't have proper attire." He looked at the sign, "guess the Gentlemen's Study will have to wait."
Boone looked a bit annoyed by his response, unable to hide his desire to be with her alone. He searched the halls, "don't they sell suits here?"
Leslie placed a hand over her lips and snorted with laughter. "I reckon they do..."
No matter how hard Boone tried he couldn't convince Rynan to go at it alone. The boy stuck to them like tree sap. The giant boy was never one to like being by himself. Scared of his own shadow on most days, Leslie knew. So he stayed and the three of them slept the night away until morning had come and gone.
By mid afternoon the next day they stayed in their room, that had two large beds and enough snacks to feed a horse twice over. They told stories of their times in Lone Creek, before the fire and before the move, and played the card game Snakes where Rynan had the luck of Luck Chuck: a wealthy pioneer who'd discovered corodite—and always seemed to find fortune wherever he'd gone: Rynan found his own fortune dodging the snake card before it dropped, at every hand, so much so Boone began to call him a cheat.
"I'm no cheat," Rynan said. "You just have to feel when the snake card is coming." It was a game of luck more than skill, Leslie recalled, but she'd forgotten how to play so Rynan did his best to remind her. "This is a simple game," he chuckled. "You flip the cards over, and if you yell "snake!" before the snake card is flipped you get to keep all the cards that were flipped prior, then it passes to the next player." His face grew intense from his thoughts, "but if you don't call "snake!" before the card is flipped then you lose the bundle of cards prior to the snake being turned. There are ten rounds—you shuffle after the snake's been dropped—and after the tenth round you tally how many cards you collected over the ten rounds."
Leslie nodded understanding but Boone looked lost as ever, scratching his head while his hairs stood like the strands had been through a wind storm.
After two games that lasted several hours Leslie found that time slipped away. The tall oiled wooden clock rang after two, and she needed to get ready to see the Mayor before they set off for Sundown City.
After she'd bathed and got ready for the day, wearing a tan button shirt, dark breeches, a long-tailed coat and her trusty brown-brimmed hat; she set off to find Barrot who was wandering the halls of the inn in search for somebody who had change for a buckback.
"Apparently, nobody carries anything but backs here," he said, leaning on a bar.
"I need you to do something for me," Leslie said, she smelled of fresh blossomed flowers and the young man noticed, bringing his nose closer to her crimson shade of hair. If that was the price to get him to agree she'd give him a second whiff. One for the job and the second on the house. Before he drop his jaw to ask why she'd come she answered, "I need you to watch Rynan and Boone for me..."
Leslie never had to do much convincing when it came to asking Barrot. He smiled brightly, teeth dazzling white as pearls. "But of course," he said, "I have—"
"I need you to listen," she raised a finger, leaning her hip against the bar. "And I need you to keep this between you and I." He nodded. "I've got word that there was an attack on Boone."
"Attack on Boone?" He said too loudly.
Leslie looked around the bar, watching the gentlemen and ladies who were already drinking breakfast wines and afternoon brandy's sitting on stools and at tables. Some wearing devine hats and bonnets while others wore bowties. All seeming to be lost in their own conversations about themselves—and the least bit interested in what they had to say. Even the bartender who had chops for a beard wiped the inside of a glass with a rag, staring at them boredly.
Barrot surveyed the room himself, "I don't think they care none..." And she squinted at him with piercing eyes."
He raised his hands, "Alright. Alright." He leaned in closer, likely trying to get another whiff. "I'll hush up." He took a breath through his nose.
Pleased, Leslie continued, "Ma Jean came down with what maybe poison and Boone was attacked at the alchme trials."
"Who'd attack them nice folk?"
She shrugged, "I'm uncertain. Jeroco had a worry in his eyes I'd never seen before."
Leslie raised two fingers to the bartender and he brought them each a glass of frothy, golden beer. She gave a few buckbacks and he gave her coins of copper and silver. Seemed the bartender wanted them to purchase and not just converse, leaving them alone to tend to their drinks while he tended to others.
Barrot took a swig, leaving his upper lip foam-white. "Well, hell, we can do more than this...We should bring the concern to the Mayor's attention."
Leslie shook her head, "I believe the old coon, but we need to be certain before making accusations."
"What do you have in mind?"
"We wait, for now." She took her own sip, feeling the bitter-sweet bubbly toy with her tongue. "For now I need you to keep a close eye." She pushed several goppers, a few rimmys, and one ruck over to him. The coins glistened. The last gopper and rimmy she pushed aside, "that's your share there; leave these two for the bartender." She winked, "it'll keep him quiet."
Barrot yanked out a wad of buckbacks from his tan trouser pocket, pulled one loose and handed it towards her. "In exchange for the coins."
"Keep them. You're doing me a favor."